Anecdotage of Glasgow
Bailie Hunkers of Glasgow, and the Bear
ONE day, while Bailie Hunkers, in his
official costume, was picking his steps through one of the dirtiest
parts of the town, known by the name of the Old Vennel, his progress,
when near the head of it, was interrupted by a crowd collected to
witness the clumsy gambols of a bear belonging to an Italian vagrant,
well known in most of the borough towns in Scotland by the name of Anty
Dolly—his real name, Antonio Dallori, being too long for the everyday
use of our countrymen.
Anty had completely blocked up the way, and though
the spectators, on seeing the bailie, ran in different directions to
make way for him, yet, as Bruin and his master did not show the same
readiness, Bailie Hunkers, who was on his road to a civic feast, became
impatient, and, drawing his sword, thrust it with considerable violence
into the rump of the bear, on which the animal, maddened by the pain,
made a sudden jerk, snapped the rope with which it was held, and
catching the bailie in its rude embrace, continued to dance round its
accustomed circle, growling in its usual manner, while the terror and
seeming danger of the bailie excited the greatest consternation among
The complete control, however, which Anty Dolly
possessed over his travelling companion was such that, though he could
not make it quit hold of the unfortunate magistrate, yet effectually
prevented it from doing him any serious injury.
The people, seeing the bear did not devour their
bailie, again collected round, and some of the more thoughtless of the
youths actually ventured to laugh at the strange faces and grotesque
attitudes which the dignitary was forced at times to assume.
While Bailie Hunkers was thus engaged in the dance
with a partner so little to his mind, an officious baker came running
forward, and much against the entreaties of the Italian, who knew the
temper of the animal, began to probe it with one of his barrel staves.
This had the effect of making the bear run backwards, when it
unfortunately lost footing on the brink of one of those sinks of
pollution with which the Vennel, above mentioned, at that time abounded,
and both bear and bailie were plunged in the midst of the filth.
All was now alarm. The timid ran from the scene,
afraid of being implicated in the murder of the bailie; while the
Italian, who had hitherto been of some use in restraining the ferocity
of the bear, afraid of the conséquences which might ensue from such
treatment of one of the constituted authorities of such exalted civic
dignity, betook himself to flight. The bakers, who were always active
when any dangerous service was required, hastily collected with their
peels and barrel staves, which they drove in between the legs and sides
of the bear, and then pressing them outwards, by these means so far
loosened the hold of Bruin, whose savage nature was by no means roused
to that degree which might have been expected. The bailie, watching the
favourable moment, jumped up and scrambled out of the puddle, in safety
no doubt, but black and dripping all over, as if newly out of a dyer’s
That a circumstance of this kind, occurring to a
magistrate of Glasgow, would be passed over without investigation, was
not to be thought of. Anty Dolly, by flying, was considered as having
taken guilt to himself of no ordinary degree; a reward was therefore
offered for his apprehension. A council was afterwards summoned to
decide on the degree of punishment due to the audacity of the bear,
which was secured and brought in front of the Tolbooth, strictly guarded
by the town-officers and a party of the Blues, who chanced to be passing
through Glasgow on their way to Lanark for the purpose of being
After due deliberation, the poor bear, though
innocent of shedding a drop of civic blood, was condemned to be shot,
and its skin hung up in the Town Hall, as a warning to all bears not to
interfere with bailies, particularly when going to dine and drink claret
for the town’s gude. The above sentence
was put in execution the same day, when a large cavalcade accompanied
the four-footed culprit to the Butts, where, after receiving a great
many shots, she expired, grumbling, no doubt, as bears are in the habit
of doing, at the hardness of her fate.
A few nights after this singular execution, Antonio
Dallori himself was taken on the Cathkin Hills, above Rutherglen, where
he had been concealed from the day of his flight. .
He was brought to Glasgow, in order to his being put to trial.
That he would experience a greater degree of lenity than his companion,
he did not expect. But lucky it was for him that in the course of his
precognition it came out, that the day before his exhibition at the head
of the Old Vennel, he had arrived from Linlithgow, where he had been
showing off his bear for the amusement of those who had been celebrating
the 29th of May, and also burning the Solenrn League and Covenant.
This circumstance showed that the Italian was at
least on the safe side of politics; and the council considered that in
such ticklish times they might be suspected, if they punished with too
much severity, one who had been active in amusing the loyal subjects of
His Most Gracious Majesty, on such an occasion, and in such a way.
Antonio was therefore sentenced to do an hour’s penance in the jougs,
with the skin of the bear about his shoulders. This seemed the hardest
part of the matter, for the poor fellow, when he saw the rough coat of
his dumb confederate, burst into tears, and continued sobbing, during
the whole of his punishment, in such a manner as excited the compassion
of all, so that not a missile of any description was attempted to be
thrown at him. He was afterwards dismissed, with an injunction to betake
himself to some employment attended with less danger to his neighbours.
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